Chad E. Iwertz & Michael Blancato
Computers and Composition: An International Journal 42, pp. 47–58
Publication year: 2016

In the fall of 2014, a team of five professors and three PhD students from The Ohio State University taught the second iteration of a massive open online course (MOOC) called “Writing II: Rhetorical Composing.” Within two weeks of the course’s opening, participants began contributing to what would become the most viewed discussion board thread of the course: “Are the Instructors Going to Teach Us Anything?” This thread forced us to identify what “Rhetorical Composing” does as a MOOC and how it sets out to teach students about writing. After the conclusion of the course, we began to re-explore and document instances in which students and instructors expressed concerns or ideas about where they fit into the structure of the course — an observation of who learns what from whom in “Rhetorical Composing.” What we found surprised us. The literature that exists on MOOCs did not adequately explain what was taking place in the “Rhetorical Composing” discussion boards. What has been written on MOOCs suggested that all massive open online courses can be placed in one of two categories: those that allow for students to learn from each other (called cMOOCs) and those that are structured (and marketed) as courses where students learn from one or a few select distinguished, expert professors (called xMOOCs). Current research on MOOCs suggests that students and teachers occupy different roles in online environments; however, our research suggests that the two serve overlapping pedagogical functions. We argue for greater attention to how students and teachers perform and shift roles on an expert-learner spectrum rather than occupy static binary roles.